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American Winter Should Be The American Center

American Winter is definitely not the most expected HBO film documentary series/ reality series in America.  Typically, reality shows in America focus on the miniscule matters of women who find delight in quarreling publicly.  This was not the vision of director and producer, Joe Gantz and co-director, Henry Gantz.  Their goal was to vividly depict the social and financial struggles Americans face daily. 

American Winter features various people and families who have hit rock bottom financially and who are free enough to share their social struggle worldwide.  They do not share their struggle to become a target for ridicule and shame.  They share their stories to enlighten others about the severity of safety nets and how sometimes it does not matter how much you prepare, poverty still can hit any household.

My attention is immediately drawn to the notion of humility.  It is immeasurably important for every American to maintain a humble mind and spirit.  When 48.5 million Americans are at or below poverty line and 1/3 of Americans are just above the poverty line, everyone should be very understanding and humbled.  I commend the directors of this show for using a variety of people to emphasize the effects poverty has on individuals no matter race, color or creed.  I firmly believe American Winter should be the American Center.  Instead of feasting on the foolishness of the average reality shows, Americans should take a few doses of humilty by watching this phenomenal REALity show. – Anjelica S. Webster

Workers in Canton, Mississippi are trying to organize a labor union without intimidation and threats from their company, Nissan. Can you imagine trying to organize something that is beneficial for you and legal, but yet still get harassed by your employers and risk job security?The workers have had many of their rights violated by Nissan and are raising awareness so that they can fight back against the super company that they work for. They are loosing their pensions and having their hours cut down when on the flip side, they put in so much dedication and hard work to make Nissan the company that it is today. They are being treated unfairly and unreasonable. Labor unions are designed to protect workers rights and avoid violation of their rights. They were not designed to cost a working man or woman his/hers only means of providing for their family. 

 
The Mississippi Student Justice Alliance (MSJA) and Mr. Danny Parker have partnered in gaining awareness over this issue for these particular workers in Canton.They have created the “Concerned Students for a Better Nissan College Tour” which started here in Atlanta in the AUC and finished in Washington D.C at Howard University. They hope by other students and people gaining awareness of how unjustly Nissan is treating their workers, that more people would advocate and join in their fight for justice.
 
In March, I actually got the chance to sit in on one of MSJA’s campaign for justice and I could hardly believe and imagine such things going on right under our noses. It’s a shame how these huge corporations get away with practically murder with no repercussions. As a junior, I myself am getting prepared to enter the real world where fending for yourself is your number one priority. That could easily be me or anyone of my family members in that situation, and that’s why I thoroughly believe that we must stand up for what is right. Everyone in this nation should be treated with dignity and respect and the workers in Canton are no exception to this.
 
 

Rally for Nissan Workers

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This class has enlightened me to so many social justice issues that happen even today. Just in this class alone I have been exposed to so many things that I would have never even dreamed of being exposed to. Prior to March 20, 2013 I had never been privileged with the knowledge of The Concerned Students for A Better Nissan College Tour. I also had never heard about the MS Student Justice Alliance.  This tour as well as this organization is raising very important concerns that need to be heard by everyone. The MS Student Justice Alliance is an organization of youth that fight for justice and fair rights of Nissan workers. The students use this tour in order to provide information, petition for help, and to ask for the participation of other students from other schools in the United States. Student activism is something that prior to Spelman I was not privileged to being a part of. Watching and experiencing students go out and make a difference for people that they do not even know as well as do not have any type of connection to is absolutely amazing. Listening to these students speak so passionately about this particular organization shows that In addition to all of that, just to see and hear Danny Glover speak so highly of this organization was very profound to me. His participation was just a reminder of how this is an unfortunate situation that needs immediate attention and advocacy. Overall I appreciated the information that I received during the panel discussion. It made me realizes that anytime I feel as though that there is an injustice somewhere I should use my voice and do something about. Throughout all the panel discussions that I have attended while being in this class, I have learned that if I just stay quiet and not say anything about injustices that I witness, that I am just as bad as the person committing the crime.

Kara McRae

Rape on College Campuses by: Ailah Martin

I watched the May 5th episode of the Melissa Harris-Perry Show, and the portion of the episode that most interested me was “Rape on College Campuses.” I chose this because it discussed recent events on campus and addressed a letter from a Spelman College student. The letter described a student’s distress and concern due to other students’ reaction to four Morehouse students allegedly raping two Spelman students. In the past, as a whole, the African-American community has supported the perpetrator rather than the victim. This includes cases when the victim was not African-American and when she was, in fact, African-American. According to guests of the Melissa Harris-Perry Shows, this may have something to do with race loyalty and not wanting to be a part of shaming and stereotyping the Black man who has been shamed and stereotyped throughout history. I agree that those are possible reasons as to why the African-American community shames victims; however, I do not agree with the African-American community shaming those victims. A woman should never be afraid to come forth in order to report a crime nor should she be criticized for coming forth, especially from her own community, and especially for a crime that violated her own body. Perpetrators should never be sided with because it is just unfair, and it also creates thoughts in people’s minds that maybe rape is okay, therefore, opening the door for more women to be taken advantage of.

In this particular case concerning the four Morehouse College students and the two Spelman students, it is important to remember that at this point in time, the young men are “alleged” rapists. Until more information is released or they are convicted of the crime, it is important not to label them rapists. In the event that these students are convicted, it is also important not to label the entire Morehouse student body. The negative actions of a few do not speak for every student or take away from the fact that there are still upstanding men at Morehouse College. As Spelman College students, we have all been stereotyped as being anything from “rich girls” to “hoes,” and we have found the stereotyping to be quite offensive. At Spelman College, because we are such a close-knit community and even refer to each other as sisters, it is important to, at the same time, not criticize our sisters and to show our support because it is now that they need it the most.

I also believe that the events could have been handled differently by the administration at both colleges. It is so important and critical to have open dialogues about topics as serious as rapes while keeping the victims anonymous. In general, I believe my view on the issue has been similar to the views of other students on the campus. We support our Spelman sisters but at the same time we are not shaming “alleged” rapists or stereotyping all Morehouse College students.

The Mississippi Student Justice Alliance

The Nissan crisis has been going on for quite some time now in Canton, Mississippi. Recently, actor Danny Glover has coincided with the mobilization of support for Nissan workers in Canton. The injustices endured by the employees are tremendous and striking to be knowledgeable of. The main issue here is that the Nissan workers would like to organize unions without the intimidation and threats from the company and Nissan is refusing to let that happen. This is where Danny Glover decided to draw the line and join in, stating that “They have unions in South Africa and Japan. We’re only asking for workers to have the right to vote on a union and not face intimidation.”

As a senior, who will soon be in the work force, these actions on behalf of Nissan are not very welcoming to the next chapter of my life. We, as Americans, cannot sit back and let these injustices continue to play out and not do anything about it. In addition to being harassed when asking for advancements, employees have had to deal with pension cuts, lost benefits, and some have not received wages in years. This is a problem.

I am so proud that many people from students to globally renowned actors are taking part to stop this injustice. I hope that many more people join the process and I look forward to seeing the outcome for this case.

-Ashley Gilbert

Students Solidarity with Nissan Workers

     “Worker’s rights are civil rights, the same as human rights.”   These words, spoken on March 20, 2013 at the Concerned Student for a better Nissan College Tour capture the gist of the entire meeting. The meeting was geared towards encouraging students to join the movement to hold Nissan responsible to labor rights of its employees, specifically the right to unionize and hold fair elections for unions.  The Nissan workers report being harassed and intimidated when they speak out about needing unions or about the issues they face. Some of the issues that the workers face are a lack of pension, no raises in 6 years, and the disparity in the benefits that they receive in comparison to workers overseas.  This is especially problematic in that corporations like Nissan “race to the south” to exploit the fact that there is a lack of union protection in southern states.  These companies push the idea that they are hiring large numbers of workers, but only hire them part time. In this way, the company benefits from only having to pay part time wages and offering no real benefits.

     Several times during the presentation, students were urged to consider ways that they could stand in solidarity with workers at Nissan and workers in general. A question posed to the audience by special guest Danny Glover and other speakers was “If Nissan can’t treat their workers right, why should we buy their products?” In addition to not buying Nissan products, conversations centered on union organizing in other places and joining organizations that are committed to worker’s rights.  This relates to the course material in Poverty and Social Justice in that we often talk about how poverty is an issue that stems from an amalgamation of social ills like unemployment, educational disparities, and a lack of respect and justice on behalf of workers. If companies like Nissan are allowed to exploit workers and profit from their labor without ensuring that they have basic necessities to make it like healthcare and a living wage it reinforces existing systems of economic stratification. Or it keeps working class people poor.

-Whitney McCollum

Justice for the MS Nissan Workers

As a resident of MS, I have always been aware of the nissan plant located in Canton, MS. What I knew of it was that it was a good source of income for MS residents; however, I was not aware of the injustices experienced by employees. So for me, The Concerned Students for a Better Nissan College Tour panel hosted by Danny Glover was particular interesting and alarming. To learn that the Nissan workers in my hometown were without a proper union was extremely disturbing.

The purpose of the panel was to alert AUC students about the injustices present within the Nissan franchise. They called for students to advocate and rally to demand better conditions for Nissan employees in Canton, MS. To date, employees have been harassed and intimidated for attempting to get a fair election. Employees have had their pension cut, they have lost benefits, and they received no raises. This is completely unacceptable, and it drives private citizens like me to consider boycotting the Nissan franchise all together. In addition to this, it is also crucial that local government and elected officials be held accountable for demanding equal rights for workers in the state of MS. 

Overall, I am thankful for the MS Student Justice alliance, and I am proud of the effort that they are making to ensure that the Nissan workers receive the justice that they deserve. And I hope that the talks hosted by the alliance will prompt other young people to become involved in the cause. Danny Glover said, “youth are our foot soldiers”. So it is up to the youth to demand and require that franchises like Nissan provide quality working environments for their employees.

 

Ariana Gibbs

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